GR and Kent County in new statewide collaboration

The city of Grand Rapids and Kent County government are the first local governments in Michigan to contract for new financial management software available on “the cloud” to members of the non-profit Michigan Municipal Services Authority.

MMSA is a Michigan public corporate body launched in 2012, beginning with an interlocal agreement between Grand Rapids and Livonia. MMSA has the legal power of cities to operate across geographic boundaries and will engage in cooperative purchasing with local governments and other public agencies throughout Michigan. The object is to lower local government costs through collaboration and enhance public services.

Gov. Rick Snyder has said MMSA “will strengthen Michigan communities by accelerating collaboration, cooperation and joint action.”

Through MMSA, Grand Rapids and Kent County have made contracts with CGI Advantage, which offers financial management software and enterprise resource planning, and is also used by the state of Michigan.

Grand Rapids has a $6.5 million, five-year contract, and Kent County a $6 million, five-year contract for CGI Advantage360. It is software for budget, financial, procurement and human resource management processes, and will be available by contract to other local governments throughout the state.

MMSA contracted with CGI to provide CGI Advantage360 “software-as-a-service” — another way of describing software that is accessed via the Internet and does not reside on the subscribers’ hardware. The basic concept is also known as cloud-based computer services, which can even include email service.

Grand Rapids Chief Financial Officer Scott Buhrer said it is a collaborative effort providing local governments with standardized management tools and processes.

“We are proud to be a charter member of this invaluable consortium,” said Buhrer.

Kent County Fiscal Service Director Stephen Duarte was the key person at Kent County on the multi-year project to update the county’s financial management system.

“We are thrilled to be part of such an innovative and collaborative program. This is a cost-effective, easily implemented solution that works for Kent County and will no doubt prove extremely attractive to other Michigan jurisdictions in the months to come,” said Duarte.

Duarte said the MMSA received grants that help cover some of the cost of the Grand Rapids and Kent County services.

“This is the ground floor of a project that we hope will go state wide,” said Duarte. He added Genesee County is preparing to enter into a contract with CGI through the MMSA.

Duarte said Kent County is not buying any computer hardware or paying for a license to use the new software.

The software the county has been using since the late 1990s is outdated and in need of replacement anyway, according to county officials.

Duarte said county officials determined several years ago that due to the “immense cost” of maintaining the old software, and knowing it would have to be replaced, the idea was launched for a collaborative statewide project to reduce future costs.

Daniel Keene, a senior vice president at CGI, said the software-as-a-service it provides is “truly secure, affordable, cloud-based and designed for government Enterprise Resource Planning.”

Bruner said the software will “help local governments reduce operational costs and achieve long-term cost predictability.” Systems for other types of government management processes will also be available.

Founded in 1976 in Montreal, CGI Group Inc. is the fifth-largest independent information technology and business process services firm in the world. CGI has annual revenue in excess of C$10 billion and an order backlog of C$20 billion; its shares are listed on the TSX (GIB.A) and the NYSE (GIB).

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